WHO study finds that Glasgow has worse air pollution than London

Great Western Road at night

Credit: Glasgow Guardian / Polina Volochay

Fraser Kerr
Writer

A recent study on air quality by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has concluded that Glasgow is more polluted than London.

The study measured the levels of fine sooty particles and found that Glasgow had 16 micrograms per cubic metre of air in the atmosphere. The same study found that London had fifteen micrograms and Edinburgh had eight.

The WHO’s report discovered that 44 UK towns and cities had more than 10 micrograms – the safe limit set by the WHO. Therefore, Glasgow was 60% above the safe level according to the organization.
A key contributing factor towards air pollution, according to Dr Hillman, one of the authors of the study, is diesel-powered vehicles.

These results echo the investigations of the WHO in 2016 which found Glasgow to be among the worst in the UK in terms of air quality. “Swift action” was called for in 2016 by a representative of the British Lung Foundation.

Sustrans Scotland Senior Policy Officer, Alex Quayle, told The Glasgow Guardian: “Air pollution is damaging our environment and our health. If we are to reduce air pollution to safe limits and meet ambitious targets, significant local and national government investment must prioritise walking and cycling by giving people more space and safer routes and promote increased use of cleaner public transport. We must take measures to reduce levels of motor traffic, especially in urban areas, while incentivising cleaner vehicles for essential journeys that cannot be undertaken on foot, bike or public transport.”

Glasgow Councillor Ken Andrew said: “Glasgow City Council was well aware of how difficult this [the issue of air pollution in Glasgow] is”. He mentioned that there were hotspots for pollution in Glasgow including Hope Street and Union Street. The councillor argued that “idling taxis” were contributing to the air quality problem and suggested that enforcement of the fine for idling be imposed more stringently than it is currently.

Mhairi Hunter, a Glasgow Councillor for Southside Central, and Ken Andrew both mentioned the current Scottish Government plans to make Glasgow a low emission zone. Both agreed that this plan would start with action on buses and making sure that their engines were all healthier for the environment across the board. Then, according to Councillor Hunter, the focus would expand to other vehicles.
Both councillors hope that Glasgow will be a low emission zone by some time in 2018.